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A day after Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez declares the “world will end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change” a bit of scientific reality.
Lately, more focus has been on “climate-change deniers” than on the science of climate change. They are called science-denying, narrow-minded and selfish. They face ridicule every day.
For example, in “The Depravity of Climate-Change Denial,” economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman argued that climate-change denial risks civilization for profit, ideology and ego.
But who are the real “climate-change deniers”? (Or “climate deniers”? He uses the terms interchangeably.) Krugman never defined the terms. He failed to quantify the change in Earth’s climate. He ignored the finer details of temperature change. Instead, he focused on President Donald Trump’s skepticism. “Republicans … are, necessarily, bad people,” he wrote.
‘Skeptics are Deniers’ is Nonsense
This is the sad state of news articles on climate change. They use fallacious, personal attacks. They ignore genuine challenges to the doomsday narrative.
The idea that “skeptics are deniers” is nonsense. It flies in the face of science. As the sociologist Robert K. Merton wrote 80 years ago, “Most institutions demand unqualified faith; but the institution of science makes skepticism a virtue.” Merton isn’t alone. For centuries, scholars have hailed skepticism. The motto of the world’s oldest scientific society (England’s Royal Society), Nullius in verba, means “Take nobody’s word for it.”
Scientific method relies heavily on skepticism. Every claim is cross checked against real-world data before it gains respect even as a theory, let alone a law or a fact. Even then, it remains open to question in light of new evidence.
A scientist publishes her theory, and her evidence for it, in a journal. Peers examine it. Often they publish counter-evidence. Or they criticize her methods. This cycle repeats as long as potential refutations arise. When they stop, if the theory hasn’t been refuted, it might be widely embraced. It might even be thought of as a law or a fact. But serious scientists know it remains subject to refutation if new evidence arises.
Branding skeptics “deniers” lets alarmists ignore counter-arguments. Honest scientists don’t do that. But it saves alarmists from painstaking analysis of data and methods.
Good Reasons to Be Skeptical
Take temperature patterns, for instance. Despite hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific papers that refute them, claims of unprecedented warming, promoted in recent United Nations reports, dominate the media. Alarmists have made the public believe recent warming is unprecedented and driven by carbon dioxide emissions. But global temperature patterns show otherwise.
Temperatures in both the Roman Warm Period (around the first century AD) and the Medieval Warm Period(around tenth century) were remarkably similar to today’s. Neither period was caused by human influence.
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Moreover, there has been no dangerous warming in the past two decades. The warming rate from 1999 to 2018 was insignificant compared with that from 1970 to 1999. It was also insignificant compared with annual fluctuations.
This spells trouble for the notion that carbon dioxide drove the warming in either period. Both from 1970 to 1999 and from 1999 to 2008, carbon dioxide levels increased steadily and exponentially. In neither period did they correlate significantly with global temperature changes.
Even popular alarmist Michael Mann admitted (in a scientific journal) the apparent “slowdown in warming.” But he downplayed it. He and his colleagues never admitted that they were wrong to predict rapid, dangerous warming. They continue to push their doomsday narrative.
Money Motivates the Mainstream Myth
Why this abandonment of skepticism in climate science?
If alarmists admit that real-world temperatures differ so much from their claims, the doomsday narrative will die. There will be a backlash among both the public and policymakers. Billions of government research dollars will dry up. Elite scientists will lose their jobs. The renewable energy industry will lose billions in subsidies.
So, who are the real deniers?
The real deniers hide behind their doomsday narrative. They trust flawed computer climate models rather than measured temperatures. They use scare tactics to peddle their agenda. And they vilify those who approach climate change with the skepticism that is the hallmark of real science.
Vijay Jayaraj (M.Sc., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England), Research Associate for Developing Countries for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, lives in Chennai, India.